Organisations in any business are about people. Be it a micro startup or a large conglomerate, the backbone of any company is its culture and the people who define the culture. The product, code, processes are transient and temporary.Hence leadership has to be about service to people. As you lead the team towards organisation goals, there is also an opportunity to shape their growth and careers. Growth is not restricted just to the localised context of the company. Leaders are in the right position to guide, mentor and shape the careers of your team. If it is followed org wide, it results in deeper trust and greater involvement from everyone across the board. Does this mean, you are over indexing on an individual’s growth at the cost organisation’s mission. This is where leaders play an important role in crafting a plan that develops the individual while driving impact for the organisation. We will cover in this article about individual development plan (IDP) – the process, best practices and how it can make impactful contributions for organisation in the long run.
What does Career Development look like
One on ones are a great place to start career discussions. They can be general nudges on what a team member want to grow into in the near future. This will also give an understanding of where ones interests are headed. Its a good practice to start the discussion in the first few months of the person joining the team. It would be good to share a template at this stage and have the person think and come up with a Individual Development plan. An example of template is shown below:
Sample career dev template
The manager and the employee grooms the development plan at least for 3-4 sessions to come up with a concrete plan. The last part on the action plan has to be a co-owned between the manager and the employee. It is also advisable to keep the action plan for a year though the overall goal may be stretching into few years
Individual’s Role in Developing the IDP
- The individual owns and fills the Individual career development plan (IDP)
- Manager/Leader nudges for getting the plan going
- Think long term first – Don’t be limited by the current work context and structure.
- Manager and individual together build the action plan. Its better the individual follows up through the process
- The action plan gets tracked in any tool with ownership and timeline. We use Zoho and Asana at Yubi
- Don’t rush through the process. Take your time and commit realistically. Ideally should take few sessions to close out on the plan
Leadership Role in Career Development
As leaders focus long term and invest in the team’s success. IDP is not about getting the next pay hike or the promotion for the team. It is about truly caring for the person’s professional development. Keep dedicated IDP sessions and do not combine these with project updates. As much as you isolate day to day burning issues in these sessions, they will be more impactful. Remember to build careers and not jobs. Few pointers to summarise.
- Think the overall environment not just the talent framework in the organisation
- Ask yourself, how can you make the person more sought in the market than what they are today. Can sound counter-intuitive to retention goals etc. However, an employee will be far more engaged if they are groomed for future than for just the current job role at hand
- Marry the development plan with the goals of the organisation. True learning always happens on the job. As a manager its your role to find the match between what people aspire and how could it drive the goals for the organisation.
- Exceptions are different – for instance people may want to change from data to film-making. In which case its prudent to plan out redundancy for the person and have an open discussion with the team on how long they want to continue this path. Actually these proactive discussions would give those insights and benefit the manager and the employee
- Sometimes career development could mean shifting from one area with in the company to another. For example Engineering to Data, Data to Product etc. Depending on the organisation policies, these could be facilitated. Of course the IDP is no means a free ticket to switch teams but with the right intent and right mechanisms (like Inter team job posting, cross team internships) can facilitate lateral growth for employees as well
- Be true in the process to the team and make it an onus to develop people professionally. The best way to learn any skill is to impart them to others. You will see as you do the process sincerely and thoroughly – you would have learnt a few skills yourself. Not to mention the immense satisfaction you get when you see your team successful and the fact that you have played a small role in it.
- The document is a great start but you don’t need to be restricted only to the document. It’s a constant thing on your mind on how you are channeling the individual’s growth. You might not have thought of an opportunity earlier when you were discussing the action plan, but it may come across during the course of the business. You should be quick to provide that avenue to the individual
- Certain aspects of career planning would directly fit to their goals that year.Those cases they become part of the goal setting process. There are cases where based on individual’s strength and what they want to build, the org goals could also improve. For instance if an individual is interested in exploring a new revenue stream – that could increase the overall revenue forecast for that year. Hence IDP could result in downward to upward goal setting as well. When those are present, quickly increase the visibility of those goals and make them part of org commitments for the year
Analysing an Individual Development Plan
We will now look at in depth of a career development plan. See the filled form below. We can assume the manager and the individual has completed 4 sessions discussing the same. There are details in sections, development areas that both have to agree and align. Long term development has come from the individual – in this case she wants to be in “Head of Data Science” role in few years. The “Head of Data Science” might not be a role that the current team can support (Assume the manager is already the Head). There could be 2 possibilities – this could be a succession planning kind of discussion or in absolute terms, look at what is required for the role in the market and start grooming the person. Here the timeline for the long term plan stands at 4-5 years and this is another area where the manager could think its too late or too early for the person. There can be inputs from the manager on the timeline – on what she thinks is realistic. The action plan here also covers the hard skills (ML Ops) and soft skills (Coming up with roadmap and getting a buy in and alignment). Also note the action plan has timelines here. These could be the checkpoints for the employee and the manager to review on the overall progress. A plan like this helps both the manager and the individual to commit to milestones and makes the progress very transparent.
How to Make this an Org-Wide Initiative
In order to kickstart the career development conversations across the board, start with a document on the “why” followed by a well formed template. Explain to the larger audience the benefits and to the managers, the experience they get while shaping people’s careers. You could come with some guidelines on how to follow this in spirit and not just in words. As an organisation leader, checkpoint the progress of the team in creating IDP across different avenues – skip level meetings, 1:1s, promotion recommendations, during appraisals. Treat the IDP as the ground truth document for any discussion on the individual and growth plan. If this is followed diligently by leadership the process automatically starts taking shape.
People are the most important assets for any organisation. Investing in people does not have to be through only monetary means. In many places, career development & growth are misconstrued with promotions and salary hikes. Professional development is far more deeper and long lasting than that. Investing in your team’s professional growth will go a long way and forever establish a bond.At the core of it, leadership is service – service to the organisation and service to the team that builds the organisation.